This past week, over 200 youth in eight counties participated in the Liberia Emerging Political Leaders Training (LEPLT), an initiative that will eventually engage 1,000 youth across Liberia’s 15 counties to enhance their knowledge, skills, and commitment to civic and political leadership in their communities in advance of the 2023 elections.
According to a release, the Elections and Democracy Activity (EDA) is rolling out the LEPLT across Liberia with the goal of increasing knowledge among participating youth of their civic responsibility and the electoral process; increasing skills and interest among participating youth to participate in the political process, including through running for elected office and leading civic activities in their communities; and strengthening the potential of participating youth to serve as leaders in their community.
The Elections and Democracy Activity is made possible by the generous support of the American people through USAID, the release added. The project is implemented by Democracy International (DI) in collaboration with the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and NAYMOTE-Partners for Democratic Development, who together lead the youth component of the project. IREX is providing technical support to NAYMOTE to conduct the LEPLT for youth across Liberia.
With a first round of trainings already completed in eight counties, early feedback from participating youth indicates that the training is inspiring some youth to participate more actively in their communities:
"From the training held, I have been energized and stimulated to pursue my inner vision of participating in my county politics as a candidate! I will run as a representative in 2023" said Melvin Solomon Gertee, a participant of the LEPLT in Bong County. Another participant in the training quickly supported her colleague and expressed being inspired by the Training. “I am a female student at the Bong County Technical College (BCTC) and I have always loved to take part in politics. From this training… I will venture into student politics,” said Mammie N. Moore.
The first round of the LEPLT has concluded in Nimba, Bong, Lofa, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Maryland, Grand Bassa, and Margibi Counties and will be rolled out in the remaining counties through the end of September, with additional rounds of training rolling out through Summer 2023. The six-Module training was developed by IREX in consultation with NAYMOTE, covering topics including Civic Responsibility, Electoral Process, Transformative Leadership, Political History of Liberia, Liberian Constitution, and You, and Opportunities for Action.
Notably, through targeted outreach and intentional efforts, NAYMOTE and IREX have aimed to include diverse youth representatives in these important training, including from marginalized groups who typically miss out on similar training opportunities. “I am so happy to see people like myself attending this important training. People with disabilities have been left behind for too long. With this knowledge, we will keep advocating for our group representation,” shared William C. Nyanneh who participated in the LEPLT in Grand Kru County.
Following the completion of the LEPLT, interested youth can apply to be matched with a mentor through the Terry Hall Memorial Mentorship initiative. These Mentors include Alumni from the IREX-implemented YALI/Mandela Washington Fellowship program, among other IREX and NAYMOTE youth leadership programs. The Mentorship will run for six-months and will enable participating youth to learn from Liberian professionals who will support them on their leadership journey as they transform their learning from the LEPLT into action within their communities.
The Elections and Democracy Activity (EDA) works with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the National Elections Commission (NEC), and the Government of Liberia (GOL) to cultivate accountable elected representatives who govern in the interest of their constituents by building a diverse and an inclusive cadre of representative leaders and active citizens who demand accountability.
To achieve this overarching goal, the release concludes, Democracy International implements this activity through three interrelated objectives: (1) increase leadership of marginalized groups in political processes, (2) improve civic knowledge and sense of civic duty and (3) advance self-reliance of the NEC and civil society organizations to independently manage and observe all stages of the electoral cycle.